• discharge;
  • infant care;
  • low birth weight infant;
  • preterm infant


Background:  Increasing admissions to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) demand early discharge from the units. Our hospital aims to early discharge patients who meet the following requirements: they are able to regulate body temperature; neither apnea nor bradycardia is observed; and bodyweight increases with lactation. We studied the real state of this strategy.

Methods:  We looked at postmenstrual age, bodyweight, complication at the time of discharge and the readmission rate in 609 patients with gestational age of less than 34 weeks, who were discharged from our NICU between January 2000 and March 2008.

Results:  The postmenstrual age and bodyweight at discharge decreased with the increase of gestational age. This tendency was stronger in cases with gestational age of less than 26 weeks. A comparison was made between two patient groups with a gestational age of less than 26 weeks and with the age of 26 weeks or longer. Many patients with a gestational age of less than 26 weeks suffered frequently from complications and were on home oxygen therapy. The readmission rates within 3 months and 1 year of NICU discharge were 10.4% and 26.9% in patients with gestational age between 22 and 25 weeks, respectively, while those rates were 2.8% and 7.4% in patients with gestational weeks of 26 to 34, respectively.

Conclusion:  The postmenstrual age and bodyweight at NICU discharge decreased in inverse proportion to gestational age, especially less than 26 weeks. Our requirements for early discharge were verified by the readmission rate in this investigation.